Expectations were high going into this week’s Queen’s Speech. After a wide-ranging White Paper with a Prime Ministerial foreword launched last summer, and recent messaging on the importance of planning reform to help housing delivery and home ownership, we were expecting movement.
Of course, a number of changes have already come into effect or are underway – many of them positive. As well as the Use Class Order and PD changes, the NPPF is being updated and a draft National Model Design Code has been issued.
It’s easy to welcome a quicker process that offers greater certainty. More streamlining through a simpler system and better technology is also very attractive.
But with much greater emphasis on Local Plans and zoning coming through this week, it’s clear that larger schemes in particular will need bespoke planning strategies, with engagement required from the early stages. The hard yards will need to increase up-front for the overall process to be improved.
With this in mind, when the Bill is unveiled over the coming weeks and months there are some essential areas we will be expecting it to address:
- How is the zonal approach going to work in practice? Where will the lines be drawn and what will and won’t be allowed in each of the three designations? The release of these maps will be a game changer for many.
- How can we be certain that the new style Local Plans will at last be effective and be adopted?
- How will the new process be resourced and how will the proposals in the plans be financed? Improved resourcing at the Local Planning Authority level will be essential but so too will inward investment for levelling up.
- What should happen during the transition period? As the Bill moves to becoming law, what happens to emerging Local Plans that are already in train and planning applications that will soon be submitted?
There’s a risk now that the Bill could, counterintuitively, slow delivery as we assess likely outcomes for particular sites, assets and portfolios, but the implications of this week’s announcement are clear. Anyone bringing forward new development should push on rather than wait for these changes to take effect. Whatever the improvements it will bring long-term, there is very likely to be a period of disruption in the next 12-36 months and for those of us focused on regeneration, housing growth and better health, education and town centre environments there’s no reason to wait.